Gov. Ivey transfers funds for broadband expansion
Published 8:30 am Monday, April 4, 2022
Governor Kay Ivey has announced the completion of the process to transfer the American Rescue Plan Act funds designated for broadband expansion to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).
A memorandum of understanding designates ADECA as the state agency in charge of administering a total of $276 million in Alabama’s ARPA funds for broadband as determined in the January special session of the Alabama Legislature. ADECA will deploy the funds in the coming months through grant programs to help expand access to high-speed internet service to unserved areas across the state through its new Alabama Digital Expansion Division.
The ARPA funds come from three sources: $51 million in State Fiscal Recovery funds, $34 million in Revenue Replacement funds, and $191 million from the Capital Projects Fund. ADECA will work in the coming weeks with the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority on details of the grant programs and will announce funding availability as the grant application periods are opened in the coming months. The Capital Projects Fund also requires a program plan and grant plan to be approved by the U.S. Treasury Department. The funds from all three sources must be obligated by December 2024 and expended by December 2026.
“Broadband is vital infrastructure that helps bring more jobs, improves educational and health care opportunities, and bolsters our economy,” said Governor Ivey. “These funds represent an opportunity to fill this need for broadband service in more areas of our state, particularly rural communities. I am pleased to complete this step in the funding process, and I have full confidence that ADECA will manage these funds wisely.”
Since 2018, ADECA has played a leading role in broadband for the state. The agency has awarded grants for more than 90 projects to expand broadband access to unserved areas through the Alabama Broadband Connectivity Fund. In December 2021, the agency established a new Alabama Digital Expansion Division, which was created through the Connect Alabama Act of 2021. The act also created the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority to work with ADECA to oversee broadband expansion in the state.
In January, ADECA released the Alabama Broadband Map and Alabama Connectivity Plan to guide the state’s efforts and recommend strategies to expand broadband. The map included months of collaborative work and the participation of 57 internet service providers to give a clear and accurate picture of broadband availability in the state down to the address level. Governor Ivey is the first Alabama governor to identify the needs and a plan to meet those.
“ADECA is honored to have the support of the governor, the Legislature, and others as we all work toward the common goal of expanding broadband access to more areas of our state,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “With the completion of the Alabama Broadband Map and Connectivity Plan and this funding boost, we have the pieces in place for effective grant programs to incentivize providers to expand their coverage areas.”